Fists Fly
Daniel Hemric (18) and Noah Gragson (9) traded blows following Saturday’s EchoPark 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Toyota Racing photo)

HAMPTON, Ga. – The battle for the win in Saturday’s EchoPark 250 may have come down to Justin Allgaier and Martin Truex Jr., but the battle everyone was talking about leaving Atlanta Motor Speedway was between Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric.

Gragson made waves in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race after both drivers overshot their pit boxes during a sequence of pit stops, leading to Gragson’s Chevrolet backing into Hemric’s Toyota as the pair tried to correct their respective mistakes.

That contact boiled over into a post-race altercation between the two, with Hemric approaching Gragson mid-interview with PRN Radio. A shove was quickly followed by flying fists as crew members quickly separated the two.

Gragson was called to the NASCAR Xfinity Series hauler to meet with series officials and discuss the incident.

“[It’s] pretty simple. He had no idea what was going on out on the race track,” Hemric said, detailing his view of the clash. “We came down pit road and the guy pitted behind us when you accelerate when I was pulling into my box, and it made me have to steer around the guy, going to the 9’s (Gragson) box. I backed up and yes, it messed up both of our pit stops.

“I backed up and he decided to put it in reverse and cram into the right-front fender and knock a hole in the nose of our Poppy Bank Toyota Supra. We had to pit again and fix it,” added Hemric, who finished ninth Saturday evening. “It was completely deliberate and it was absolutely ridiculous. Where I come from, you get your eye dotted when you do stuff like that.”

Pressed further if he believed Gragson’s move to back up into his car was intentional, Hemric offered an affirmative response.

“Oh yeah, [he] crammed it into reverse and backed up. Punched a hole in the nose of our car,” Hemric noted. “Punched a hole in our car and I got one punch in his eye. We’re even.”

For his part, Gragson said in his post-race interview that he wasn’t sure why Hemric was upset, but that he was pleased with the fight his team showed in rebounding from what could have been a disastrous day.

Gragson came back from being involved in a multi-car accident on the final lap of stage one to post a fourth-place finish – his best result of the season in the JR Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet.

“I don’t know why he’s mad,” Gragson said. “We were behind him coming onto pit road … Then he was in our pit box and I had to come around him. [I’m] not really sure why he was there, but had to back up and get there. … I’d be mad if I was in his shoes, too, just based off what he’s done in his career, but it is what it is and we’ll move on and keep on fighting.

“Man, what a day. Top five, we’ll go celebrate that.”

After reviewing the incident with Gragson, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller confirmed Sunday that no penalty would be assessed to Gragson for the incident.

According to Miller, in the eyes of NASCAR’s officiating team, Gragson’s contact with Hemric’s car was not deliberate.

“We reviewed the incident which occurred between the (Nos.) 9 and 18 cars on pit road during Saturday night’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and met with Noah Gragson after the event. A chain reaction of events led to the 18 and 9 both overshooting their pit stalls,” explained Miller. “The 9 ended up both long and out of his pit box to the outside and needed to back up as far as possible to have any chance at fully pulling into his box.

“After reviewing the video, it is our judgement that the contact was not deliberate.”

Leaving Atlanta, Hemric sits second in Xfinity Series points, while Gragson improved to 14th in the series standings and is 21 points back of the playoff cut line through six races.

Both drivers will have two weeks to cool off before the Xfinity Series’ next event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on April 9.

Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman, 24, is the founder and managing editor of 77 Sports Media and a major contributing writer for SPEED SPORT Magazine. He is studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. and also serves as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

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